Defining Moments in the Lab

Undergraduate Research Gets a Boost from Donor-Funded Grants

Undergraduate Research

Forrest Jones, a Senior Biology Major in the Honors College, spent months in Baylor University’s Simmons Laboratory analyzing hair cells in the inner ear. He is acutely aware that small things, such as the microscopic proteins that affect the ability to hear, can indeed make a remarkable impact.

So too, can a financial gift—no matter the size. As the recipient of a $500 grant for undergraduate scientific research, which was supported by the Honors College Excellence Fund, Jones said the generosity of the Baylor Family made his project on hearing loss possible.

“You don’t realize how big of an impact your large or small contribution is going to have,” Jones said. “In my experience, receiving a grant allowed me to not only advance my work but also think and read through the lens of a researcher.”

“Our undergraduate science research materials grants program addresses an ongoing need our students encounter,” said Honors College Dean Douglas Henry, Ph.D. “When students’ thesis research involves consumables for which faculty do not have a budget, these small grants simultaneously support students, help faculty, and enable high-quality lab work.”

The grant Jones received funded supplies for his project, including needles, forceps and antibodies. He and his lab partner, who also received a $500 materials grant, conducted experiments on mice to examine the role of the protein oncomodulin in cochlear outer hair cells during the development of hearing and hearing loss.

This opportunity, Jones said, defined his experience as a student at Baylor.

“Small gifts can open big doors for our students as they receive outstanding mentoring, gain real-world skills and ready themselves for competitive opportunities as graduates,” Henry said.

The students completed their work alongside Dwayne Simmons, Ph.D., Cornelia Marschall Smith Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology. Dr. Simmons’ research primarily focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms associated with hearing loss in the brain and inner ear. He has taught courses in neuroscience, physiology and cell biology.

“I have really enjoyed my time in Dr. Simmons’s lab,” Jones said. “I’ve gained an appreciation for the process of research and the difficulty of it. I’ve also learned more about the intricacies of the body, which has always been one of my motivating factors for taking science courses.”

After graduation, Jones plans to attend medical school. He credits the generosity of Baylor donors as a critical component of his academic success at Baylor and for supporting his passion to pursue a career in medicine.

“This grant has helped me focus on helping others through my passion for science, which is something that I’m glad to be able to do now and is also preparing me for my future career.”

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